A Guide to Popular Fence Designs

by Fran DoneganJune 2, 2017

Fences are one of the few landscape components that provide both a practical purpose as well as a dramatic design statement. They’re incredibly versatile and are available in a wide range of styles and materials. Here’s a look at some of the most popular fence designs.

Privacy Fences

These are usually tall, solid fences designed to keep your yard private. The stockade style shown here has vertical boards installed without space between them. Privacy fences can be made of wood, like this one, or vinyl. Many designers lighten the look of a solid privacy fence by placing an airy, open component, such as lattice, along the top of the fence.

Garden Fences

Garden fences often enclose planting beds, but they are most often used as a boundary between a public street and a private yard. This is a classic friendly design that is usually about waist high. The example shown is made of vinyl, but wood pickets are also common. Another option is to choose a fence made of wrought iron or aluminum.

Pool Fences

Many states and municipalities have specific regulations about the design and construction of fences placed around swimming pools. Most are modeled after work done by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). The basic requirements are designed to keep children away from the pool when adults are not present. Kids should not be able to climb over or wiggle under a fence. Here are some of the CPSC requirements. Be sure to check your local requirements as well.

  • Fences should be at least 48 inches high, although some codes require a height of 60 inches.
  • Fences should not provide handholds or footholds for climbing.
  • Gates should open away from the pool and be self-closing and self-latching.

Security Fences

A security fence is any fence that restricts access to the property. One option is to combine a metal gate with masonry walls. Most security gates include an intercom so that someone in the house can identify who is at the gate. Security gates are often opened and closed by remote.

Fence Styles

Some fences are identified by the style of their construction rather than the function of the fence, such as the picket and stockade fences shown above. Some other fence styles include:

  • Chain Link: This utilitarian fence is often used as a boundary fence in backyards and serves to keep children and pets in the yard. They are also a good choice when it is necessary to protect vegetable gardens from rabbits and other animals. Chain link is a galvanized metal that comes in a variety of finishes, including painted and powder coated.


  • Board-on-Board or Shadowbox: There are a number of possible variations, but like stockade fences, shadowbox fences have vertical members placed close together. But in this design, the vertical boards are placed on both sides of center support rails that run horizontally along the length of the fence, rather than on one side—the side that faces out—of a stockade fence. This creates an interesting texture and a finished appearance on both sides of the fence. Wood and vinyl are the materials used for this design.


  • Post and Rail: Along with the more rustic split-rail fence, these fences are often associated with ranches and horse pastures. Homeowners often used them as boundary fences that are there more for appearance than anything else. Most are made of wood, although vinyl fences are available.


Fence Materials

  • Wood: The most common fence material, wood, in the form of redwood, cedar, spruce or pressure-treated lumber, is used on all types of fences. It is a traditional material that is usually the least expensive option when planning a fence. Wood fences can be assembled from individual components or from pre-assembled panels.
  • Vinyl: This low-maintenance option can mimic the look of a traditional wood fence. Traditionally, vinyl fences were white, but manufacturers have started offering fences in different colors.
  • Metal: Traditionally, metal fences were referred to as wrought iron, and classic wrought-iron and cast-iron fences are still available. Most metal fences today are made of aluminum with a factory-applied finish that lasts for years.

Before building a fence, or having one built for you, contact the local building inspector to learn about any codes and zoning regulations that may apply, and consult with a surveyor to make sure your fence stays within your property lines. It’s also a common courtesy to let your neighbors know you’ll be putting up a fence as well. Many municipalities and homeowners’ associations restrict fence heights. Before the digging starts, call 811. This number connects you to a local center that will dispatch someone from your local utilities to mark the approximate locations of buried utility lines so your new fence can be installed safely.

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About The Author
Fran Donegan
Fran Donegan is a DIY-for-the-home authority who currently writes for The Home Depot. Fran is a longtime DIY author, and has written several books, including Paint Your Home. To research options for garage door repair services, visit the Home Depot website.